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Full text of "An Old Scotch Liberal on Home Rule"

Irish Question No. 20.] 

AN OLD SCOTCH LIBERAL 
ON HOME RULE. 



To the Members of the Edinburgh Liberal Association. 

Gentlemen, — A few weeks ago you did me the honour of 
electing rne honorary president of your Association on the under- 
standing that I should not be called upon to do any work, 
Being a very old resident in the district, I accepted the honour 
in the spirit in which it was tendered. 

I observe from the Scotsman of the 14th that the Association 
met and passed certain resolutions embodying principles to which 
I have always been opposed, and which compel me to restore into 
your hands, which I hereby do, the honour you so recently con- 
ferred upon me. I need only refer to the first two sub-sections 
of your resolution. The first expresses great admiration of Mr. 
Gladstone's talents and sagacity, and refers to his unequalled 
experience as a Parliamentary leader. To this extent I cordially 
agree with the resolution. When I had the honour of being 
Lord Provost of your city I had great satisfaction, 33 years ago. 
in proposing that the freedom of the city should be conferred on 
Mr. Gladstone- I greatly admired him then, I venerate him 
now, as one of the greatest and most patriotic Ministers this 

country has ever produced. But he never professed to be 

infallible. He has always laid down his plans for the con- 
sideration of the people, and rested his support of them in 
Parliament on the grounds that he believed they had the 
approval of the great body of the people. He has now 

brought forward a Bill for establishing a Parlia- 
ment in Ireland, and removing the present Irish members 
from the Parliament at Westminster, and it is as regards this Bill 
that I am utterly opposed to the resolution passed by a majority 
of your Association ; and I believe the great majority of the 
inhabitants, if tested, would be found to be against you, for 
during the sixteen years I represented you in Parliament, I always 
voted against Mr. Butt's Bill for an Irish Parliament, and was 
never reproved for this. You describe the Bill to be— 

" To set up in Dublin a Parliament chosen by 
the Irish people for the control of Irish domestic 
affairs" It seems to me to go greatly beyond this, 

if we may judge from Mr. Gladstone's speech as to the Bill itself ; 
and thus, judging for myself alone, I am bound to say that 

I consider it by far the most reckless and dangerous 
measure ever proposed within my experience, and 

my experience is rather a long one ; for I was present at the 
first great Eeform meeting held in Scotland in 1820, usually 
called the Pantheon meeting, from the place where it was held, 



( 2 ) 

and at which the great Whig leaders of the Scottish bar were the 
chief speakers. 

It was implied by the speakers at your meeting that the Bill 
might be so improved in committee as to be made harmless to the 
other portions of the United Kingdom. I doubt the possibility 

of this. ^ The principle of the Bill is radically un- 
sound in my opinion, but if the principle be admitted, I 
think the clauses and details flowing therefrom, as now embodied 
in the Bill, are quite logical and symmetrical. One strong ob- 
jection against the Bill in many quarters is the exclusion of the 
Irish .members from the Parliament at Westminster, and in this 

I participate. I altogether disagree with the theory on 

Which the Bill Is based; but, if we admit the theory of a 
separate Parliament in Dublin to be right, it seems to me that 
the exclusion of the Irish members from Westminster is inevitable 
— it is a logical sequence. If any number of Irish members were 
to be sent to Westminster after the establishment of their own 
Parliament in Dublin, with substantially the powers conferred 

by the Bill, it seems to me that it would be to admit 
that the Irish were a superior race to the English 

and Scotch, and, therefore, besides allowing them to manage 
their own affairs, they were to send a contingent to our Parlia- 
ment to assist us in managing our affairs also ; and bad as the 
Bill now is, such an arrangement would make it still worse. 

The remedy is like the Highlandman's gun which 
required a new stock, lock, and barrel. It is not 

desirable that Mr. Gladstone should be humiliated by the defeat 
of the Bill, after spending the best part of the session in dis- 
cussing it, and preventing the progress of other useful measures. 
The Bill Should be Withdrawn, and some of the wisest 
heads in the three kingdoms, without regard to party, ought to 
be employed in devising a measure of Home Eulc which would 
apply equally to each of the three kingdoms, and have a ten- 
dency to unite them more and more in one friendly bond of 
brotherhood in place of separating them into distinct nationalities. 

If an election were to take place at an early 

period, I hope it will be put on this distinct ground — Should 
there be a Parliament in Dublin or not? If in our district a 
candidate comes forward for an Irish Parliament and another 
against it, if I should be spared in health and strength, I 

should vote for the candidate against the Irish 
Parliament whatever his other political opinions 
might be, whether Radical, Whig, or Tory, so strong 

is my conviction of the ulterior evil consequences which would 
•flow from such a measure. I am, Gentlemen, yours faithfully, 
Newington House, DUNCAN M'LAEEN. 

16th April, 1886. 

Published by the Liberal Committee for the Maintenance of the 

Legislative Union between Great Britain and Ireland, 
35, Spring Gardens, S.W.